Sony Action Cam Mini camera  (12)

Let’s be real for a moment. You can have the most feature packed action camera around, but if it isn’t easy to use you’ll end up with a bunch of boring footage that’s probably either of the ground or the sky. The introduction of the smart phone app and wireless capabilities was a huge step forward in terms of being able to properly capture the actual action, but they still leave things to be desired – connecting can be troublesome, and you still have to do something with your smartphone once you start riding. To keep you from having to constantly dig into your bag to fish out your phone, many cameras are paired with wrist or handlebar mounted remotes that allows you to control the recording.

Even so, wouldn’t it be more convenient if the same functions were available in a single wrist mounted remote?

That seems to be what Sony is thinking and is exactly what they offer with the new Action Cam Mini AZ1. In addition to the live view remote, the camera is 30% smaller than the original AS20 and the replacement AS100V. The smaller size means you can stick it just about anywhere to create some creative videos while simultaneously controlling it from your wrist. Sony brought us out to Northern New Jersey for a crash course in the new camera which included mountain bikes, mountain coasters, and even archery.

After just a day playing with the Action Cam Mini, we can’t help but think GoPro has some serious competition…

Sony Action Cam Mini camera  (13)

Sony Action Cam Mini camera  (10) Sony Action Cam Mini camera  (8)

The Live View might be the most exciting bit of the new design, but the actual size of the camera can’t be ignored. Even with the waterproof ( 5.0m/16 feet) housing, the Action cam Mini is one of the smallest on the market. Take off the housing, and it feels impressively small and since the new body is splash proof you can run it without the housing. What does splash proof mean? We’re told normal mountain bike conditions should be fine, even if you were to briefly drop it in a puddle or stream. Just don’t go surfing without the waterproof housing.

If you want to go scuba diving Sony currently sells an additional dive housing for the larger AS100V which is waterproof to 60M/197 feet so we wouldn’t be surprised to see something for the Mini in the future. Want to run the mini without the housing, but are concerned about the lens? Sony also has an additional hard cover protector for the lens to keep it safe. We have to say that while it’s good to have the option, the lens seems to be extremely durable.

Sony action cam mini still photos (3)
Eric McKeegan showing us how it’s done.

During our time at the archery range we were literally taping the cameras to the shafts of arrows and firing them at the targets. Turns out it’s pretty hard to aim an arrow weighted with a camera at one end, so there were multiple shots directly into the ground, target stands, targets, and event he wall behind the targets. For full disclosure, we did have one camera that met its fate on the end of an arrow, but that was after the tape slipped and the lens ended up smashing into the back stop at full clip. The camera still worked, it just cracked the glass.

Lesson here? The camera is very durable, but don’t shoot it directly into a wall from a compound bow.

Sony Action Cam Mini camera  (4)

Sony Action Cam Mini camera  (6) Sony Action Cam Mini camera  (5)

Side by side with the new Hero 4, you get an impression of the difference in size. Technically the GoPro should probably be compared with the skeleton housing, but the Sony is splash proof alone. Each camera is mounted to a tripod mount with a 1/4 20 thread onto a clip for Sony accessory mounts.

Sony Action Cam Mini camera  (18)

Sony Action Cam Mini camera  (19)

All of the Sony Action cams have a smaller thread built into the camera so you will need the included tripod adapter rail to connect to 1/4 20 mounts.

Sony Action Cam Mini camera  (16) Sony Action Cam Mini camera  (17)

Sony Action Cam Mini camera  (3) Sony Action Cam Mini camera  (2)

Smaller in size is great, unless you’re talking about batteries. In order to make the camera smaller, Sony had to make the battery smaller which results in somewhere around 80 minutes of recording time instead of 120 on the larger camera. Going into the day I thought this would present itself as a problem since it seems whenever I want to use a helmet cam, the battery dies in a hurry. It turns out that when you can see exactly what you’re filming at all times and have access to all the functions right on your wrist, you end up conserving the battery without even trying.

If you do kill the battery, it is replaceable so you can carry a spare and swap in out in a hurry. While filming 3 different activities in the span of about 6 hours, I ended up killing one battery and just getting into the first bar on the second. That includes constantly turning the camera on and off, taking over 100 pictures, and quite a few videos. When you need to charge the cameras include a Micro USB cable, but Sony will also sell a few charging kits which includes the trick battery case/charger above. Pop the battery in and you can plug in to any outlet, or attach an external battery pack to charge the battery in the wild.

Officially, the Mini uses a Sony Y battery, while the larger cameras use the more popular X battery. Like their other cameras the Mini has a memory card slot that fits both Memory Stick Micro and Micro SD/SDHC/SDXC cards.

Sony action cam mini still photos (1)

Sony Handy Cam Mini remote wifi (2) Sony Handy Cam Mini remote wifi (7)

Sony Handy Cam Mini remote wifi (5) IMG_1514

Sony Handy Cam Mini remote wifi (4)

When it comes to the Action Cam Mini, the new Live View Remote is key. Admittedly there are cameras and remotes out there we haven’t tried, but the Sony system works extremely well. Using a wi-fi signal sent out from the camera, the remotes are easily paired – up to 5 cameras per remote. This means that if you’re in a group of people who also have cameras your remote will “see” their camera, but you won’t be able to connect unless you have the password. Connecting will take about 3-5 seconds so you have to factor that in when trying to record something.

Once connected you can control everything from the remote except for turning the camera on and off. The menu is well organized, and easily scrolled through using the push buttons on the face, even with gloves. If you don’t need the live view, you can cycle the LCD display to show a clock and vital numbers, or off. The remote has a non-field replaceable lithium ion battery but two days after using it non stop, it still reads as having a full battery. Clearly the battery limitation will come from the camera, not the remote.

At first the remote looks a little bulky and uncomfortable to wear for long periods of time, but once on you nearly forget it’s there. The soft rubber pad and velcro strap allow you to cinch it down over bare skin or over bulky jackets. The remote will be sold with both the Mini and the larger AS100V. Don’t want to wear a remote all day? The cameras are also controllable though their smart phone app like their competitors.

Sony Action Cam Mini camera  (21)

Sony Action Cam Mini camera  (22) Sony Action Cam Mini camera  (20)

Thanks to their earlier helmet camera exploits, Sony already has a wealth of mounts including typical bike mounts like the chest harness. On many of the mounts the 1/4 20 screw is not tool free so carrying a quarter will be useful. Otherwise all of the hand screws are easy to use and allow quick adjustments.

Sony Action Cam Mini camera  (23)

Sony Action Cam Mini camera  (26) Sony Action Cam Mini camera  (24)

Sony Action Cam Mini camera  (31) Sony Action Cam Mini camera  (30)

Sony Action Cam Mini camera  (29) Sony Action Cam Mini camera  (28)

Almost all of Sony’s mounts also use a quick clip connection. This allows you to swap the camera between preinstalled mounts, or easily remove the camera to change the battery, etc.

The Universal Head Mount kit proved to be very well thought out and offers mounting options for full face and XC helmts as well as any other helmet, hat, or just your head. In addition to the lower stabilizer, the goggle mount includes a quick adjust to rotate the camera 360 degrees. Combine that with the live view remote and you have the ability to quickly change your camera angle and know you’re getting the shot.

Sony Action Cam Mini camera  (32)

pSNYNA-VCTHM1_main_v500 roll bar mount

The list goes on to include Roll Bar Mounts, Handle Bar mounts, self adhesive mounts, wrist mounts, selfie sticks, and on and on. An adhesive mount and the tripod mount are included with the Camera, but the rest will cost you $19.99 and up. In our experience so far the mounts seem a tad on the bulky side especially for how small the camera is, but overall are very well thought out and easy to use.

One of the biggest selling points of their cameras for Sony is the SteadyShot image stabilization. In theory that means less shaky, blurry footage especially over rough trails. Based on our riding at Mountain Creek Bike Park (AKA Diablo) and trying to keep up with trail builder, instructor, and all out shredder Jeffrey Anderson, it seems to work pretty well. The image stabilization does come at the cost of field of view though, with the SteadyShot set at 120 degrees instead of 170 out of the Zeiss lens. You can turn off the stabilization to get that 170 degree view if you prefer, however.

The Mini has a built in stereo mic for recording sound that captures sound incredibly well – including the wind. High speeds result in the classic wind noise, but there isn’t any of that clack that some cameras seem prone to. We’re told that something might be in the works as far as an accessory to quiet the wind if you are running it out of the case.

Sony action cam mini still photos (7)
Image shot with Mini on Burst Mode. The image stabilization seems to make the photos a bit wavy – that or we haven’t figured out the right settings yet.
Sony action cam mini still photos (5)
Photos taken with the Mini using manual shutter mode are much more crisp and take full advantage of the 11. 9 megapixel Exmor R Sensor.

Our time so far with the camera has been good, but we’ve barely scratched the surface as far as the video features. Along with 6 different film modes including 1080/60p at 50Mbps HD and 4x slow motion at 720, the camera can live stream, create instant sequence shots, and overlay GPS data and speed over videos. Of course there are still photography modes as well including single shot and burst.

Available in stores next week, the Action Cam Mini will sell for $349.99 which includes the camera, the Live View remote, waterproof housing, mounts, battery, and charger. Based on what we’ve seen so far, that seems like a deal thanks to the ease of use the Action Cam Mini brings to the table. If you want a camera that’s easy to use, the new Action Cam Mini comes highly recommended.

Full specs and prices at sony.com. We’ll update the post with a few more videos as soon as they’re finished.

Sony action cam mini still photos (6)

15 COMMENTS

  1. The problem with the chest mount is when you make a drop or need put your body aft sometime the seat it the camera moving the angle and damaging the movie clip, if this happen in a Gopro I don´t want to imagine in the Sony or other long camera

  2. The live view is a great feature especially if a aux cam(remote wrist view can control 5 cameras) is mounted high up or far away.
    The ability to tether an external battery like a 5200mAh and have continuous recording for 6 hours at 1080/60fps is fantastic.
    I can do a 4hour ride and have it all recorded without needed to switch batteries.
    Another feature I like is these cams have NFC which, with the Sony Memories Android app, I can get live view via my mobile smart phone.

  3. ^ “The ability to tether an external battery like a 5200mAh and have continuous recording for 6 hours at 1080/60fps is fantastic.”

    Unless I missed it, this article doesn’t say this camera can do that. I look for that feature too — the ability to continue recording while running on an extended battery.

    What the article says is that you can remove a spent battery and charge that dead battery using an extra external battery if you buy their charging kit:

    “When you need to charge the cameras include a Micro USB cable, but Sony will also sell a few charging kits which includes the trick battery case/charger above. Pop the battery in and you can plug in to any outlet, or attach an external battery pack to charge the battery in the wild.”

  4. @Rawr, the Sony’s do not require an exterior housing(because its already rain proof) in order to mount the camera like the GoPro’s do.
    With this said, the small door that exposes the micro USB can be opened and an external battery can be mounted for extended uninterrupted use.(6hours with a 64GB microSDXC)
    The battery on the Live View Remote will last approx 4 hours on a single charge(not constantly on but toggled for periodic viewing)
    One of the main reasons I bought the Sony is due to the fact that it is operable on constant power.
    There was another cam I was looking at that as soon as an external USB was attached it auto goes into recharge mode and cannot operate/record. The Sony allows such operation.
    Lastly, the 6hr limitation is subject to the micro SDXC size. The external battery has plenty juice after the card is full. If I had 128GB(too expensive right now) I could get well over 10hours of continuous recording without stoppage/replacing battery.

  5. @MMC

    Can you post/host a picture on how you make/attach the extended batt? itself and on whichever mount you use.

    Me thinks it’s too bulky.

  6. The camera works well. But add the black base (to mount it to anything) and then attach it to Sony’s handlebar mount for a bike ride and the 2 oz mini cam is now a ~5 oz contraption.

    The live view remote is also bulky adding more ounces. (This has the GPS.)

    The download software is just okay. If you want GPS on your movies (that is, Speed or a Map) you must use PlayMemoriesHome to upload from the mini cam AND make the movie in the bundled ActionCam program. Two programs. The software may do a lot, but I don’t know because settings and feature documentation is weak to non-existent.

    Worst of all I cannot make the GPS work at all! I’ve tried 2 separate packages (live view remote + mini cam) and no matter what they will create an empty 1k gps file. Also bad there is no way to tell if the GPS fails until you can examine the filesize later (its buried in a subdirectory) or go through the lengthy movie creation process, because the LV Remote just shows GPS on or off. Yes, it may be on, but it’s not doing anything.

    There is a mysterious “GPS assist” update, also with no explanation that doesn’t work either.

    Camera= Pass
    Bike Mounts= Pass
    GPS= Fail

  7. I second what WillT said about the GPS. The file is empty with the exception of the header data. It is frustrating me beyond belief! It also seems like the reviewer did a utter crap job at testing this unit, they just repeated what the media pamphlet said about the GPS.

    I’d also say that the battery life is abysmal. 90 minutes? I think I’d rather have the original Action Cam with built-in GPS and bigger battery and use my phone as a remote if need be.

  8. #Greg & WillT
    When the camera is first turned on a function within the came initiates the triangulation for GPS. This must be performed while outside without obstructions. If the little satellite icon does not show shut off and turn on again.
    Went to a consumer electronics show that had Sony cam experts there. They stated they had to make the software not contingent on GPS location because if they did there would be some difficult situations where someone may need to turn on and start record immediately without having to wait for the GPS protocol to initiate.
    Plus some people may be filming inside then proceed to an outside environment. GPS triangulation always needs to be communicated outside first.

  9. @MMC,

    I tried it every which way. I turned on the remote first and waited until I received a solid GPS lock by indicating it on the remote, then turned the camera on and established connection. I also tried it the other way where I turned on the camera first then the remote and waited for the GPS lock. I did all my testing outside with unobstructed view of the sky. I’d also mention that my new Garmin 920XT and a cheap Taiwanese GPS logger with SIRF IV locks way faster than the Sony remote does.

  10. Oh, and there is no GPS icon on the camera, we’re talking about the HDR-AZ1 where the GPS is located in the remote control. I’m sure the AS100 works just fine.

  11. @Greg and @WillT, I have the hdr-as100v, and as long as you allow the playmemories to do the gps software update, the GPS lock happens within seconds when in in an area with unobstructed view of the sky. When I tried to GPS lock without having done the update on playmemories, it wouldn’t lock for quite a few minutes.

COMMENT HERE: (For best results, log in through Wordpress or your social media account. Anonymous/fake email comments may be unapproved or deleted. ALL first-time commenter's posts are held for moderation. Check our Comment Policy for full details.)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.